One of the things I have been working really hard at, is my relationship with my kids, and how I parent. I’ve been reading The Awakened Family (Dr. Shefali), The Power of Now (Eckhart Toole), and many of Wayne Dyer’s books. One of the major learnings that I have taken from these books, is about the ego and the escalation of power and anger. It seems so simple, but it is not so simple in practice. How many times have my children upset me, so I have yelled at them to stop, to go their rooms, to have a time out, or so on? Many times. And what happens when I yell at them? They usually yell back. So I yell louder. And it goes back and forth until someone ‘wins’, and someone ‘loses’. Doors slam, tears erupt, I’ve lost my temper, and I’ve probably threatened them with a punishment that is harsh. “If you don’t stop right now, no iPad all week!” And what have I taught them? That when they are angry, mad, frustrated, and annoyed, they should yell. Just like I do.
Sometimes I look at my 8-year-old daughter and I wonder where she gets her fiery anger. And the answer is so simple. She is me. I am her. She is my mirror. So I’ve been working at witnessing, and noticing this about myself. How mad I can get. And how mad they can get.
One day last week, the kids were at each other. They were playing in the room just off of the kitchen, that I call my office. This room used to be their playroom, and when they were toddlers, it was a perfect space for them to play while I was in the kitchen making supper, or having a coffee with a friend. Most of their toys have now been moved into their bedrooms, or into the basement, which John has converted into a playroom. But my office still houses a small desk for them and craft supplies. They often gravitate to this room, whether I am in it or not. They both love to colour, and they sometimes spend hours colouring and crafting on the floor.
I was prepping meals for the week in the kitchen, and every 5 minutes one of them would take the others pencil or marker and the other one would get upset. They were getting so worked up, that they were actually starting to hit, push, pinch, and elbow each other. They were completely egging each other on. I was noticing their tempers escalating, and how their behavior was impacting me. I could feel my emotions fire up. I wanted to yell at them to “Stop hitting each other!!!!” I could feel my rage and anxiety start to rumble, just listening to them. I paused. And I breathed. I’ve been doing that a lot lately – breathing. So simple, yet so powerful. I mean, you have to breathe anyway right? You might as well make it count! Since I started mediating a couple of months ago, anytime I feel myself get tense, anxious, or irritated during the day, I connect back to my breath, and I allow that sense of calmness to flow through my body. It’s amazing! A whole new perspective can be gained, when you give yourself a few moments to breath, and to notice your emotions.
On this particular day, after a few breaths, I called the kids over. I had an idea. I thought back to a mediation exercise that Anne had done with us in the Happy Sessions (www.AnneBerube.com), which I attended at the beginning of the month. Instead of yelling at them and giving them some sort of punishment or ultimatum, I grabbed them pillows and asked them to join me in a circle. I asked them to close their eyes, and to breathe. “In and out. In and out. Pay attention to the air as it flows in, and as it flows out.” My son, Jack, who is 5, immediately connected with his breath, and I could see his little body find peace very quickly. Mica however, she resisted. She fought every breath, and made faces and twisted her body, and did everything she could to avoid my guided instructions. But after a couple of minutes, she calmed down and started to breath. “Deep breath in. Deep breath out. 5 seconds in, 5 seconds out. Relax your face, relax your throat…” I could hear Anne’s voice and words in mine. I invited them to imagine a stream of white light travelling from the tops of their heads, to the base of their spine, and then out their bellies towards each other. I asked them to imagine they were filling the other person with white light, until the other person was so full of light and love, that they couldn’t see the other person anymore, and the other person was completely enveloped in light. I watched as their eyes softened, their jaws dropped open, and I could feel the energy moving between them.
The whole experience lasted a couple of minutes, and then I asked them to open their eyes and give each other hugs. They hugged, and went back to playing. I returned to the kitchen, and continued with my cooking. My heart felt calm and at peace, and I was grateful for being able to go beyond my usual reactions and find another way to resolve a situation that could have ended with me losing my temper.
Over the next half hour, I heard gentle whispering in my office, and didn’t hear any fighting. In fact it was so quiet, I went to peak in on them. They had cardboard boxes, scissors, markers, coloured pencils, sharpies, and florescence flagging tape scattered on the floor. They had pulled my stationary and letter writing supplies off of my bookshelf, and the lids to those boxes were off. I was unconcerned that my office was a messy disaster and that they hadn’t asked to use my stuff. I was genuinenely curious and asked them what they were up too? They had built cardboard mailboxes for each other, and were stuffing them with tape and notes. Jack was writing ‘xoxoxoxo’ on the flagging tape, and Mica was writing him letters. Love letters, about how much she loves him. I was floored. Such pure, innocent, uncomplicated love. After they were finished with this, they went off to the basement, where I heard laughter and giggling. About an hour later they called me down to the basement. They had written a play about their love for each other, and would I watch it? To say my heart melted that day is an understatement. And wow, it has really shown me the power of love, light, and the breath.
P.S. Dr. Shefali has a fantastic new book out called ‘The Awakened Family’, and if you want a taste of what’s in it check out this post (https://drshefali.com/what-is-the-soul-searching-for/).